DETROIT — Talk about stealth. Polestar is the performance division of Volvo. And it is using engineering prowess rather than the brunt of size to pack power into the company’s engines.
Volvo has a four-cylinder philosophy. Every engine it makes, diesel or gasoline, has a four-cylinder engine. And using turbochargers, or turbochargers in combination with superchargers or gasoline aided by electric motors, if you are looking at a Volvo, then you’re talking about a four-banger under the hood, as they used to say.
As Volvo has moved upstream, competing with other European luxury brands, all of which have some sort of performance arm, the company needed to compete. They turned to Polestar, a longtime customizer of Volvo cars.
What they’ve done is leveraged their knack for doing more with less. The Polestar Engineered brand in this iteration creates 415 horsepower plug-in hybrids using its S60-or XC60 product line.
In this case, we had the XC60 crossover. In Polestar trim, in addition to the power, this engine made a whopping 494 pound-feet of torque. Couple that with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and our test vehicle had more than enough oomph.
What’s more, this was a plugin hybrid that got the equivalent of 57 mpg; that’s when the battery was charged. Using only the gasoline engine, it got 27 mpg combined.
This power was smooth, quiet, and silent when we started the car, like most hybrids. There were times when our test car used just its electric motors to back out of the driveway. But under the hood was a supercharger and turbocharger working in tandem with electric motors. Our test vehicle had paddle shifters.
But the Polestar treatment didn’t end there. The Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered model featured multilink suspensions fore and aft, with Ohlins shock absorbers and dual-flow valves that allowed stiffening the springs and dampers while retaining comfort. That’s what Volvo said.
We can attest to the XC60’s firm but not rough ride that never changed no matter the street surface. It had five drive modes: eco, hybrid, individual, Polestar and off-road. We were so wrapped up in the driving experience that we only tried a couple of them briefly.
The interior of our test vehicle was black with gray stitching. We’ve always found Volvo’s digital instruments easy to see and to operate. They have not changed for 2021.
We had heated and cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel. There was a panoramic roof, power liftgate and aluminum trim, combined with the aluminum premium speaker covers. The interior had a subdued shine to it.
Volvo has some of the best seats in the industry. Ours were black and featured power seat extenders. It had all the equipment expected on a luxury crossover. There was blind-spot alert, LED adaptive headlights, collision mitigation for low and high speeds, a robust lane departure warning, oncoming mitigation braking, rearview camera with cross-traffic alert and driver alert control and collision avoidance were some of the safety features.
The wireless charger went unused because our smartphone was not compatible. But this Volvo would stream without using the cord. Like most vehicles these days, there was keyless entry as well as keyless start.
Our test vehicle was outfitted with paddle shifters, adaptive cruise control, a premium sound system and a power liftgate.
Visually, you’ve got to know your Volvos to identify a Polestar Engineered 60 Series. The six-piston brake calipers were colored gold and were visible through the 21-inch forged alloy wheels. The tailpipes were black chrome, the high gloss grille was black and there were discreet Polestar emblems in the grille and on the tailgate.
There were also gold-colored seat belt straps which we could have done without. But that was our only complaint.
The list of Polestar features was long, so we won’t go over it here. But there weren’t many options, the equipment was just part of the package. The base price of the 2021 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered was $69,500. Add $645 for metallic gray paint, a $995 freight charge and the total came to $71,140 as tested.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.